Everett Jang, Dusted Magazine, October 2003
When you first began Monolake what influences spurred you on and what did you hope to achieve?
During the day I went to the Elektronische Studio der Technischen Universitat Berlin and did listen to academic computer music. At night I did dance to techno in one of the illegal clubs somewhere in a squatted house. I tried to bring both sides together, the sounddesign and the sophistication with the beat.
Outside of Germany, the Basic Channel / Chain Reaction label has achieved a legendary status unlike any other label in the electronic spectrum. Do you find that having been affiliated with them has been a help or hindrance?
When Chain Reaction started there was a spirit of community and everyone who was involved was very happy with the situation. It was a platform for new ideas and new artists and we all felt comfortable there. It was a homebase and a perfect starting point for people like us.
One of the aspects of Basic Channel / Chain Reaction that adds to their mystique is the mysteriousness factor, would you mind clearing that up a bit and telling of your involvement and how things came together then?
The mystery comes due to the non-marketing marketing of the label. Looking at it from the inside reveals a pretty normal small business, driven by a bunch of people sharing similar ideas. We did all like the idea of understatement at this time. It felt right to us to behave different from the normal music industry. What made CR / BC unique was also the connection between a record store, a label, a vinyl cutting room and a mastering studio. I worked at that mastering studio, Dubplates and Mastering, for a few years and I were cutting all older Monolake records by myself. This situation definitely felt special and it was exciting and part of the myth.
Was it particularly hard to move on from BC / CR? What initially prompted you to break with the label and begin releasing your work under Monolake/Imbalance Computer Music?
At some point we (Monolake) wanted to explore musical ideas which seemed not to fit to the Chain Reaction context. Since I was impressed by how Mark and Moritz managed to start Basic Channel, I decided to do the same thing with Imbalance Computer Music and thats it. There was no dramatic split or something like this.
What advantages are there with running your own label rather than being affiliated with one such as Mille Plateaux, Kompakt, etc. ? Do you feel your level of exposure is equivalent to being released on another label?
Probably not in terms of promotion and probably also not in absolute sales. But I have the impression that monolake is a trademark now by itself and there is no need to associate it with anything else. The advantage is that I do not have neither to justify my muscial decisions nor my business ones and I have the freedom to do what ever I think makes sense to me. I am glad that I did achieve everything by myself and not because of the fact that someone who buys all Warp stuff will also by the monolake CD if it comes out on Warp...
Any plans to release other artists on ? Do you feel you are a forerunner in this area (it seems artist-run labels are more associated with punk / indie rock than electronics) ?
I see Imbalance Computer Music as a pretty imaginary construction, not as a real label. In a few years there will be no CDs anymore and the whole distribution and label business will change drastically. I can adapt to what ever seems appropriate since the layer between artist and customer is extremely thin which is not the normal situation if you start getting a bit more successful. I like the fact that my person is highly visible behind my work. Even the website is far away from looking like a commercial label presentation. I also have no intention to turn [ml/i] into a real label by signing other artists. On the other side I have the freedom to do so once I think it makes sense.
On Momentum it appears you are by yourself as Monolake, is Gerhard Behles no longer a member? Any plans for collaborations with anyone in the near future? Is the Atlantic Waves project with Deadbeat still ongoing?
Currently monolake is pretty much me alone and I just started getting used to this. But I am allways open to new things and it is not so unlikely that monolake will be getting a bigger project with more people involved. The atlantic waves project needs some update and we are both willing to perform it again some day. But since we are both quite full with other work it is difficult to find a time slot to continue working on it.
The sound of Momentum appears quite rhythmically advanced, yet grounded in your traditional aesthetic. How do you feel the sound of Monolake has progressed over time?
Due to the influence of my live performances the sound got more driven by beats and I still like to continue moving forward into this direction. I think the true challenge for a composer these days is not finding new exciting sounds but really work on the material. Sound itself is boring since everyone can do everything with his laptop. The challenge is the music and I see still lots of open questions and unexplored territories within the Monolake universe. My main goal is creating music which is simple and complex at the same time.
You are well known for using ambient / field recordings as sound sources, is this still an important aspect of your music? Were they a significant part of Momentum ?
No, my portable DAT recorder broke four years ago and I did not do any field recordings since then. I also see no need for it anymore. I would rather use synthesis to create something close to what I would do with a field recording but even better since less obvious...
You are traveling to Japan soon, how does the audience in Asia react to your music? As you have featured Asian source recordings frequently in your past endeavors, do you feel any kinship with countries such as Korea and Hong Kong?
I just like Asia. I like the challenge to meet people from a very different culture and I like the fact that these people have a different perception of music. It is very inspiring. In Japan people highly respect art and they try to listen and to understand. In Berlin the audience wants to be entertained and this idea of entertainment is to provide something they know and they feel familliar with. If you play a ten minute piece with no beat in a club in Berlin the crowd starts getting very upset and agressive. If you do the same thing in Tokyo the audience gets quiet and opens up to what is coming. If you then bring in some beat they go crazy. In Berlin the notion is: oh, he finally managed to solve his problem. It can be really annoying from time to time.
Many German musicians involved with the early 80s Neue Deutsche Welle scene (for lack of better term) such as Moritz von Oswald and Thomas Fehlmann have gone on to much notoriety within the current electronic scene. Likewise, many artists such as Cluster / Schnitzler / etc. attempted similar projects 30 years back. Do you feel your own work is a continuation of this thread?
Not particulary. It is just my personal reflection of what I have been listening to since I am on this planet.
What are you listening to these days?
I try to get hold of every kind of electronic music just to be up to date and I like to listen to an assorted selection of 20th century composers including Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, Morton Feldmann... I found a good way to expose myself to new music. If I read a good review of a record I buy it and instead of listening to it I import it directly into my iPod. The iPod is always on random play. If I find a piece very annoying I look it up and delete it. If I find something I really like I also look at the display and very likely start listening to the whole album or to other music by the same artist. I discovered David Tudor’s fascinating work Rain Forest while walking down the streets of Belgrade last week. It was raining and the sound matched perfect with the city and my emotions.
Ask again in 50 years.